Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Germany's Angela Merkel urges a gradual political union in Europe

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for Europe to take a gradual path toward political union, frustrating the appeals of many of her colleagues for quick, bold moves to fight the continent's raging financial crisis.

After a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who called for "urgent action," Merkel noted Thursday that the debt crisis has built over the 10 years of the euro's existence and cannot be fixed overnight.

There are big expectations in financial markets that European leaders will agree at a June 28 summit to some new measures to fight the crisis, but Merkel waved the notion away, saying no single meeting would solve the problems.

Experts say the eurozone's structure is not sustainable because while 17 countries share the same currency and interest rates, national governments retain control of budget policies. That means economies are radically different, but in times of economic stability it was not a problem.

That's why European leaders, including Merkel, agree they need to work toward a fiscal union, in which governments pool their spending decisions and their debt responsibility. The question is how quickly that is achieved.

Merkel says it should be gradual. But such a cautious approach to the crisis is frustrating many European officials and fellow leaders as the eurozone flirts with disaster — Greek politicians threaten to pull the country out of the currency bloc and Spain is at risk of bankruptcy.

European officials in Brussels and several eurozone countries are pushing Germany to accept new measures — such as jointly guaranteed debt, called eurobonds, or a central banking authority — that would help defuse concerns about excessive debt in weak countries.

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